Attila the Hunnic leader

Attila was the ruler of the Huns and was able to build an entertaining empire in the area of present-day Hungary in the 5th century.

Especially by his tactics of campaigns and tribute claims against the West and East Roman Empire, he made himself talked of.


Origin and rise:

Attila was probably born around 400, details are not known. His father Mundzuk was at the time of Attila's birth a king / tribal leader of the loose Huns scattered throughout the Balkans and Hungary, provided that the different tribes can assume a certain organizational structure.

The leadership took Attila along with his brother Bleda 434, until his death at 444/445. Right at the beginning of their rule, they negotiated some treaties with the adjacent Eastern Roman Empire, which included, inter alia, access to the local markets, the delivery of escaping Huns and tribute payments included. These were made by the Eastern Roman Empire in an effort to pacify the Huns and avoid military conflicts.

Attila, having killed his brother Bleda in 444/445, moved his headquarters to the Hungarian Plain on the Tisza, a pivotal point between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.



Ungefähre Ausdehnung des Hunnenreichs unter Attila bzw. die von den Hunnen abhängigen Stämme

Approximate extent of the Hunnic empire under Attila or tribes dependent on the Huns


Relations with the Roman empires:

For the Western Roman Empire Attila had, due to the master magister (magister militum) Flavius Aëtius who knew the Huns well for years, a fairly good relationship, which included hardly abuses and looting.

These were mainly related to the Eastern Roman Empire, of which Attila regularly demanded tribute payments. Again and again, the Eastern Roman ruler Theodosius II stopped the payments, which led Attila to new campaigns. So in 447 he started a new campaign in which he defeated the Roman master Arnegisclus and plundered several cities. Theodosius II had to sign a new contract and pay significantly more tribute. In 449 the relationship between Attila and the Eastern Roman Empire sank to a low point after it was announced that there should have been an attack on Attila. One year later, Theodosius' successor, Markian, reinstated the payments, but this time the Hunnish campaigns were omitted. Since the Balkans had already been exploited and the Eastern Roman military power was much stronger, Attila had to seek a new source of money.




Attila's campaign in Gaul:

Through political power struggles in the Western Roman Empire Attila was asked by the sister of Emperor Valentinian III, Justa Grata Honoria for help and threatened even with war.

Aëtius was uninhibited by the threats and did not want to give up his own position of power, so it happened that Attila 451 invaded Gaul. As a reason he called the succession to a Frankish tribe and looted and Gaul. At the end of June 451, Aëtius met his army at Châlons-en-Champagne. Attila's army was defeated but not destroyed. When Aëtius did not succeed the retreating army of Attila, he was able to seize the opportunity and move south to Italy.



Die wahrscheinlichen Marschrouten der Hunnen bei ihrer Invasion Galliens 451

Probable march routes of the Huns in their invasion of Gaul 451




Attila's campaign in Italy:

Based on the defeat in Gaul and the lack of income from looting and tribute payments, Attila had to look again for new sources of revenue. This led him to invade the retreat in Italy in 452.

However, after he managed to conquer and plunder some cities in the north, his army was forced to retreat due to supply problems and the spread of epidemics. So Attila collected the remains of his army and retired back to the Hungarian lowlands.




Attila's death:

The defeats in Gaul and Italy and the lack of tribute payments from the Eastern Roman Empire, Attila could hold his power difficult. He died 453 on his wedding night with Ildico, details of the circumstance are not known.

By his death and the subsequent internal power struggles, the Hun kingdom disintegrated very quickly.






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